He was angry.
“Why would God let my marriage fail?” he asked me through frustration and tears, “This isn’t fair.”
It was hard to hear.
It was heartbreaking to witness.
It was absolutely not the truth.
I understand the sentiment. If God is in control, everything is His doing, everything is His fault, everything is His plan.
But that’s a very loose, inaccurate understanding of Scripture. It also disregards the free will aspect of our lives.
God didn’t make your marriage fail.
God didn’t let your child get sick.
God didn’t allow your parent to die too soon.
God didn’t punish you by giving you a sick baby.
But as humans we need someone to blame, and it’s easy to blame someone who can’t really argue, someone we only have a basic, general idea of.
What I said to my friend who pleaded to know why God allowed his marriage to fail is this:
God doesn’t allow your marriage to fail. God is for your marriage. But your marriage is made up of two people, two flawed, broken people and if one of those people doesn’t want to stay in the marriage, God is not in the business of bullying. He doesn’t just wave a magic wand and set things right.
He could, but historically (meaning what He’s done in the Bible) that’s not how He works.
Because as any parent knows, when you swoop in and fix everything, your kids don’t learn the lesson. God created us with free will and the ability to be in or out. We are not puppets moved about at His whim with strings and jerky movements. We decide how we want to live, what we want to worship, what we want to be or not be.
And if you’re in a marriage with someone who doesn’t want to be anything but selfish, you can’t change that.
I often cringe when people use the lazy, pithy statement that “God is for marriage” like it’s the end all, be all to any marriage question.
Like it’s easy and simple.
People aren’t simple and neither is God. Marriage isn’t simple and neither is God.
Yes, God is for marriage. But He’s for healthy marriage. He’s for God-honoring marriage. He’s for healthy families, and He’s for healthy relationships.
The idea God is for any and every marriage just because you got married in a church and you claim the name of Christ is a stretch. For some reason, the Church has championed this slogan of “God is for marriage” and then disregarded the fact that God is for marriage but He’s ultimately for people.
The longer we spend in God’s Word, the less likely we should be to use generic slogans like
God is for marriage.
Why did God let my marriage fail.
God hates divorce.
Staying married means you took your vows seriously.
Because if a short sentence could save a marriage, we’d see a lot less divorce. If only we could remind people not to get divorced, they surely wouldn’t file for divorce.
Last year I was meeting with a divorce lawyer to file for divorce from my husband. My health and safety were at risk if I stayed married. My children were at risk of growing up in a family with fighting, unhealth, mistrust, and addiction.
I take my wedding vows seriously right now in 2018, and I took them just as seriously in 2017 as I began to move forward with a divorce.
But I was married to someone who couldn’t and wouldn’t live by the vows we swore to in a church in an Indianapolis suburb in the fall of 2006. I could not control his actions, his addictions, his behaviors, and his wounds.
It was not my responsibility.
It was not my job.
It was not my calling.
God loves marriage. God is for marriage. God blesses marriage. But He does not do that in the context of unhealth, violence, manipulation, abuse, mental illness, lying, co-dependency, addiction, and cheating. In those moments, He’s not concerned about your marriage, He’s concerned about you as an individual.
My marriage does not trump my health. My marriage does not trump my children’s health. It’s all or nothing. And if we’re all unhealthy, something has to change. We can do that together, or we can do it individually, but God does not call me or you or anyone to continue to live years and decades and lifetimes in an unhealthy marriage. Because it’s not just contained to the two people married, but it impacts children and extended families and friends.
An unhealthy marriage is like a bomb going off and hitting every single bystander within a five mile radius as it limps along.
God loves marriage just like He loves people: with grace and forgiveness and new starts and humility and servanthood. But if your marriage isn’t full of those things, He’s probably not a big fan of your marriage, because it sounds like your marriage is full of sin. And God hates sin.
So technically, He could hate your marriage.
Can He fix it? Absolutely.
Will He fix it when one or more parties has a hard, stubborn, proud heart? Probably not.
Will He fix it if you claim Him in name but never action? Probably not.
Can He fix it? Absolutely.
But He’s going to start by fixing the two people in it on their own and if you’re not willing to do the work as an individual, He’s probably not going to do the part you’re pleading for. Because your answer always starts with you. Your heart. Your baggage. Your lies. Your deceit. Your selfishness. Your sin. Your issues.
God doesn’t let your marriage fail. He’s actually really clear on how to do marriage well. He gives us plenty of advice and counsel on how to do marriage successfully. But then we bring our human selves to the union and things get a million times harder.
While it breaks our hearts, we also can’t demand God jump in and fix something that has been broken and unattended for all the moments leading up to the end. We can’t be mad at a God who tells us how to do things correctly and when we ignore them, call for backup with huge demands when *shockingly* things didn’t go our way. Obedience starts at the altar and starts again at the beginning of every day. And it takes two obedient spouses to make it successful; one hard-working husband or wife can’t drag a damaged marriage into the light.
The hard part about this world we live in is until Jesus comes back, we will live with divorce and broken families. God’s not happy about it. He doesn’t enjoy it, but He’s probably not surprised by it either. This is fallen Eden, and the more reminders we get, the more eager we should be for His return.
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